Lent, a season of spiritual discipline and preparation that starts annually with Ash Wednesday—which falls this year on Feb. 10—anticipates the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter.
“The season of Lent has served a variety of purposes in the history of the church and the life of Christian communities, specifically a period of preparation for baptism at the annual Easter Vigil; a time for the reconciliation of penitent persons; and an opportunity for spiritual discipline through prayer, fasting, service, and generosity,” says the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Theology and Worship. “The common thread—whether one is new to the church, estranged from the community, or wanting to grow in faith and faithfulness—is deeper and more authentic relationship with God and one another through Christ. Lent points to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up with arms outstretched in compassion and welcome. And Lent points beyond the cross to the empty tomb, where Jesus offers new and abundant life to all.”
To support and assist Presbyterians and other Christians seeking to observe the 40 days of Lent, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers a wide variety of resources, both free of charge or at a modest cost.
Mark D. Hinds, Ed.D, interim publisher for Congregational Ministries Publishing (CMP), says that CMP has produced a number of adult studies and devotional readings “that promise to draw the reader into consideration of what Lent can mean for our lives.”
“Some of the PC(USA)’s finest writers, thinkers, and doers—David Gambrell, Don McKim, Craig Barnes, Cynthia Campbell, and more—have offered to the church their perspectives on Lent,” says Hinds.
CMP’s Lenten titles are Great Prayer of Thanksgiving by David Gambrell; Illuminating Lent by Donald K. McKim; Temptation in the Desert by M. Craig Barnes; Looking at the Crossby James D. Miller; Seven Days to Glory by Blair R. Monie; Crossbound by Charles B. Hardwick; Living into Lent by Donald K. McKim; Open to Me the Gates by Gradye Parsons; and God’s Abundant Table by Cynthia M. Campbell.
“Charles Wiley’s Grace & Gratitude is also perfect for use during Lent,” adds Hinds.
“In Lent, people often either fast, or take on a new spiritual discipline, as they reflect on Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection,” says the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, associate for Environmental Ministries. “Over the 40 days of Lent, this daily calendar encourages us to learn about eco-justice—caring for creation and all humans in it—and to take action on the issues of waste, energy, water, consumption, and food. There are ideas for action by congregations as well as
Environmental Ministries also offers, upon email request, copies of a print resource called “Lent 4.5,” a seven-week study.
"Small groups at congregations have found this seven-session resource extremely valuable,” Barnes says. “It starts on Ash Wednesday with the group examining ‘Christian Simplicity’ and then moves through topics of Food, Consumption, Water, Energy, Transportation, and then Gratitude and Generosity during Holy Week. There is a handout for each participant to read and think about during the week and be prepared to discuss in the meeting."
While Call to Worship, a quarterly journal published by the Office of Theology and Worship, does not publish Lenten devotions per se, the journal did have a special issue on liturgy for the season of Lent in the last volume, Spring 2015.
Additionally the annual Lectionary Aids issue of Call to Worship offers lectionary-based worship and music suggestions for the whole Christian year, including the season of Lent. Among those resources are many texts of prayers for public worship and listings of Lent-appropriate hymns/songs, both of which could also be used in personal devotion. A $40 annual subscription, including immediate electronic access, is available online..
A table of scripture readings for Lent is also available online, with two different lectionary options provided. This resource is also found—and accessible free of charge—from this page by simply scrolling down to Daily Readings, 2016, and clicking “Season of Lent.”
Presbyterians Today, the award-winning, general-interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has published its 2016 Lenten Devotional entitled, Be Holy, by pastor and author, Brian Coulter. An individual copy costs $4.50, with discounts offered for congregations, families, or groups wishing to purchase multiple copies. Prices and ordering information are available online.
“Journey to the Cross” is a Lent and Easter devotional series for youth at d365, a daily devotional site. Sponsored in part by the Presbyterian Mission Agency's Ministries with Youth, the site has more than two million annual visitors.
Employees working at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville will be meeting for a weekly Bible study during Lent using The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections edited by the late Presbyterian scholar, James A. Noel—who died of cancer on Jan. 31 at the age of 68—and Matthew V. Johnson. Books may be ordered through Amazon.
“Lent is a time when Christians dig deeper in their relationship with Christ,” says the Rev. Dr. Charles B. “Chip” Hardwick, director of the Theology, Formation, and Evangelism ministry area. “The Holy Spirit often uses our increased focus on our faith to send us out into the world to do mission in God's name.”